Unilever lifts sales, warns of tough 2016

Unilever has lifted its full year sales for 2015 by 10 per cent, compared to 2014, to €53.3 billion but has warned of tough market conditions for the year ahead.

The consumer goods giant reported a net profit of €5.3 billion, down 5 per cent compared to the previous year.  Underlying sales grew 4.1 per cent, compared to 2.9 per cent in 2014, with volume up 2.1 per cent and price up 1.9 per cent.

Unilever CEO Paul Polman said the company had grown ahead of its markets despite a challenging year, warning the company was preparing for “tougher market conditions and high volatility in 2016”.

“The 2015 results further demonstrate the progress we have made in transforming Unilever into a more resilient business, capable of consistently delivering competitive underlying sales growth, margin expansion and strong cash flow,” Polman said.

“This consistency of performance shows that our focus to build Unilever for the long term is paying off. We are starting to see the results from sharpened category strategies that guide increased investment in our brands, our infrastructure and our people as well as extensions into attractive new markets like Prestige Personal Care.

“We are preparing ourselves for tougher market conditions and high volatility in 2016, as world events in recent weeks have highlighted. Therefore it is vital that we drive agility and cost discipline across our business. We are further strengthening our innovation funnel while shortening innovation cycle times, stepping up our digital capabilities and rolling out a global zero based budgeting programme. Our priorities continue to be volume-driven growth ahead of our markets, steady improvement in core operating margin and strong cash flow.”

Growth in personal care improved from the slower growth of the previous year, reporting turnover of €20 billion for 2015. Unilever said this was driven by innovations that grow the core of its brands and extension into more premium segments. In its food vision, savoury showed solid volume-driven growth led by cooking products in emerging markets and by innovations around naturalness and health, however, sales in spreads continued to decline. Overall turnover for the year was €12.9 billion. Refreshments posted turnover of  €10.1 billion, with ice cream delivering strong growth driven by margin-accretive innovations behind premium brands, such as Magnum Pink and Black variants, the Ben & Jerry’s Cores range and new flavours of Breyer’s Gelato.

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